Grangemouth’s tribute to brave pilots

Pilot Sergeant Eugeniusz Lukomski who died after a training operation while based at Grangemouth
Pilot Sergeant Eugeniusz Lukomski who died after a training operation while based at Grangemouth
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After years of planning and months of detailed preparation Spitfire day finally arrived. On Thursday down on the Bo’ness Road the huge replica warplane was unveiled as this district’s tribute to 71 aircrew who died while serving at Grangemouth aerodrome during World War II.

The air cadets whose idea it was must be delighted that their plan to honour that lost generation has been fulfilled of a permanent reminder of a very important part of our modern history.

But while the attention of the huge crowds was on the ceremony of dedication the thoughts of many will be a mile away in the tranquillity of the beautiful Grandsable Cemetery where most of the fallen lie in a special war graves section.

In late 1940 the base for fighter aircraft changed into a centre for young pilots to learn to fly the Spitfire and practice the difficult and dangerous arts of formation flying, gunnery and combat tactics which involved breathtaking manoeuvres.

Soon Grangemouth began to fill up with young men in their teens and early 20s from all parts of the UK and from across the globe including, of course, Poland.

The young Poles of the Free Polish Forces who had come to Scotland after the fall of France in 1940 were attached to the Royal Air Force and were particularly skilled and daring in the air.

In the weeks and months that followed the opening of 58 Operational Training Unit hundreds of pilots completed the short training course using old Mark 1 planes which had seen service in the Battle of Britain. Many died before they were ever able to engage the enemy.

Crashes during training were not uncommon and the Ochils, the hills of Fife and Perthshire and the rising ground of the Braes claimed many lives.

One of them was the Pole, Sergeant Pilot Eugeniusz Lukomski who has a special place of honour at the new memorial. Sergeant Lukomski trained in England as an air gunner and came to the area in October 1941.

Just a few weeks later on November 24 while flying Spitfire X4859 above Avondale estate he entered a wisp of cloud and, for unknown reasons, went into a spin and plunged to the ground.

He was taken, still alive, from the wreckage and brought to the Officers Mess at Avondale House, but died shortly afterwards in the medical facility at Polmont Park aged just 23.

The plane unveiled today bears the same number as the one he was flying on that fateful day. As he lies alongside his comrades from all parts of the free world, Grandsable is a place that everyone in this district, especially our children, should visit.

It is sad but uplifting too that young men, scarcely more than children themselves should travel thousands of miles from their homes to risk, and lose, their lives as part of the struggle to combat fascism and help maintain the precious freedom we enjoy today.